Alternate Realities: Where's the Rest of Me?
Science, as we have mentioned in the past, deals with a particular aspect of reality, the quantitative, the outwardly extended universe. Religion, on the other hand, deals precisely with other aspects of reality that are excluded by science--the qualitative and internally extended universe, those inscapes known as the soul.
Traditional cosmologies posit a three-tiered cosmos of matter, life and spirit. Science studies the lowest order, matter, and concludes that only it is ultimately real, a self-negating philosophy that appeals only to the intellectually uncurious and metaphysically blind. Instead of "in the beginning was the word," secular science has its own creation myth that says, "in the beginning was a single blind substance, mighty matter, mother of all, both visible and invisible. All things were made through it, and without it nothing was made. Out of it comes life and the light of the mind. But the material darkness fully comprehends the light, which is just an illusory side effect of whirling matter."
It is said that there is a form of madness that consists of losing everything but one's reason. What does Petey say about materialism and positivism? "If you believe that, you'll believe anything." Which is it? Do we comprehend matter? Or does matter comprehend us? Or does matter comprehend itself? If so, how? That's pretty impressive for mere matter. Can I get some?
In order to study the physical universe, western science drew the distinction between res cogitans and res extensa--between matter and mind. So successful was the enterprise that it eventually reified this methodological distinction into a metaphysical absolute, and then concluded that only the material was ultimately real. This has led to a host of unnecessary philosophical conundrums since then. To paraphrase Whitehead, the universe was reduced on one side to conjecture, the other side to a dream.
But if reality is nothing else, it is One. It is One prior to our bifurcation of it into subject and object, and it will always be One. We can throw out the Oneness with a ptichfork, but it will always rush back in through the walls, up through the floor boards, and down from the ceiling. In other words, the wholeness of the cosmos is ontologically prior to anything else we can say about it. In fact, it is precisely because of its wholeness that we can say anything about it at all. In the miracle of knowing, subject and object become one, but the oneness of matter and mind undergirds this process. In reality there is just the one world that knows itself in the act of knowledge.
When science sets its compass on the face of the deep, the depth disappears. Science tries to confine the universe to its own derivative categories of space, time and motion, but the real uncontainable universe always returns. Life--much less consciousness--will never be reduced to physics. In fact, physics will never be reduced to physics either. This is the real lesson of the quantum world, which leaks like water through any attempt describe what occurs there with the porous equations of linear reason.
Although I am sympathetic to the efforts of intelligent design theorists, ultimately they are looking for God in all the wrong places. Of course the universe is intelligently designed. God has always been self-evident to uncorrupted natural reason. Everywhere you look you will find irreducible information, complexity, and beauty betraying the light of the divine mind. So what? You can study a human brain, but it will tell you nothing about the consciousness of the person to whom the brain belongs--it is not as if you can "know" someone by looking at a CT scan of their skull. You will know a brain, not a person. Knowledge of a person is "inside information"--as is knowledge of God. But you have to be an insider to know that.
There is another kind of truth in the universe that can only be known from the inside, from the within. This within operates along very different lines from the without, and cannot be comprehended by applying the same principles used by science. Religions are very special languages that we employ in order to talk about, understand, and deepen our experience of the greater within of the cosmos.
If we try to talk about this within using the methods and language of science, we will get nowhere. For example, eternity cannot be discussed by reducing it to something within time. If we are going to discuss eternity at all--one of the prime characteristics of God--then we will have to use language in a very special way so as to convey the feeling without reducing it to something merely rational and temporal.
Look at it this way. We live on the shoreline between two worlds, one extending infinitely within, the other extending infinitely without. But actually, we are more like an island surrounded on all sides by the watery deep. Science, you might say, studies the island. The non-dual mystic dives into the ocean and disappears into oneness. But religion plays along the shoreline where waves of the infinite are constantly lapping onto the conscious shore. Religions are ways of talking about what it is like to live on that shoreline between the finite and infinite--which is where we live anyway, crucified, so to speak, on the cross of vertical and horizontal energies.
It is here that we find the meta-cosmic and trans-historical source of time, being and self. As best as I can describe it visually, the cosmos is somewhat like a Klein bottle, which has an inside and an outside but only one surface. However, this Klein bottle is in the shape of a toroid, similar to a donut, except that the hole in the middle is our solid world, while the donut is a whirling process that tosses up temporary forms that arise and pass away, like so many grains of sand on the shore. As such, the conventional world of the senses looks real and solid, but it really is an empty hole. The real action is taking place where the hole meets the Whole and partakes something of its abiding reality.
Or as one wag put it:
In the deep there is a greater deep, in the heights a greater height. Sooner shall man arrive at the borders of infinity than at the fulness of his own being. For that being is infinity, is God. --Sri Aurobindo
Hey, what's spinning on Petey's bong water stained turntable today? Mmmmm, vintage garage psychedelia. Melts in your brain, not on your wrist.